Making their first appearance in the World Cup since 2003, South Korea faces the daunting task that is Brazil in the opening of Group E play Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
Os Auriverdes are powered by the dynamic and high-scoring trio of five FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta, Cristiane, and Formiga. It’s a battle tested and formidable point of attack, with 29-year-old midfielder Marta leading the squad with 91 goals over 92 career appearances and Formiga the owner of 131 caps and 19 goals.
Formiga’s right in between with 74 goals over 106 international appearances, and this is largely the same group that catapulted to 2007’s championship before falling to Germany. In 2011, Brazil reached the quarterfinals and crushingly lost to the United States on penalties.
South Korea, appearing in its second World Cup, couldn’t get out of the group stage back in 2003 but does have a young batch of budding stars in its attack to possibly hand Brazil an opening loss.
There’s 24-year-old forward Ji So-yun and her 38 goals in 74 matches, and 26-year-old midfielder Jeon Ga-eul’s 32 goals. Forward Yoo Young-a adds some extra depth and scoring ability with 28 goals and Park Eun-sun’s chilled in 18 goals over 32 career matches.
The Brazilians aren’t exactly in top form, though they didn’t have Marta in the buildup to this year’s tournament. Brazil was blanked 4-0 by Germany in April, and before that lost 3-1 to the Germans.
The Taeguk Ladies held strong in their last match before the tournament, earning a scoreless draw with the U.S. after taking out Belgium and Russia in three consecutive matches.
These are the two titans of Group E, with the winner likely to win the group outright. Spain, playing in its first World Cup, along with Costa Rica, don’t necessarily stand as major threats just yet. But an early victory will position Brazil or South Korea for the knockout stages with only two matches left.
Kickoff time: 7 p.m. EDT
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